Coronavirus DEC Appeal: This is a moment to remember who we are to each other

In the space of two weeks the DEC Coronavirus Appeal has raised £17.5 million thanks to the generous donations of the UK public - funds that are already helping families in fragile states and refugee camps who are extremely vulnerable to the virus due to poverty, malnutrition and crowded living conditions.

The DEC has thanked people for their amazing support but renewed its appeal for funds, warning that health workers in places like Syria and Yemen are still risking their lives without adequate protective equipment or supplies.

  • Words by UK doctor Louisa Baxter, Senior Humanitarian Health Lead at Save the Children

The ruthlessness of coronavirus has taken many of us by surprise, with its uncompromising ability to close borders, shut down cities, overwhelm hospitals and close schools all over the world. As a doctor working on the public health response in the UK, as well as supporting the international response for Save the Children, I have seen the devastation of Covid-19 first-hand, both here and overseas. Although different countries have responded in different ways, people all around the world have felt, together, the strain, the pain, and the uncertainty of this strange new world. As this crisis has unfolded, it has reminded me how terribly and wonderfully interconnected we all are. It has exposed the fault lines that the most vulnerable in the world walk every day; the poor, the marginalised, those living in conflict zones, those living with food insecurity, indigenous communities, and it has shown us how the cracks that we walk on are so thin. I think of people in some of the countries I have worked in. I think of those in the Democratic Republic of Congo who are facing a quadruple threat of measles, malaria, Ebola and now coronavirus. I think of the pregnant women in our programmes in Yemen who were willing to travel to the hospital to give birth despite the threat of roadblocks and bullets, but now with coronavirus, they no longer know whether to risk going to the hospital.

Rohingya refugees wash their hands in Cox's Bazar. Credit: Fabeha Monir/ Age International

Over the past few months, we have seen a tremendous call for global justice and for challenging the structures that have separated us, be they socioeconomic, gender, or racial. And that is why it has been such an inspiration for me to see the work that our teams are doing around the world. Activities made possible by donations from generous people, also suffering due to the pandemic but still able at this time to support communities outside of their own. These donated funds not only allow us to help vulnerable people deal with the coronavirus pandemic, but also allow us to keep essential services going, such as food distributions and vaccination programmes. For example, we have Congolese doctors who are taking the lessons learnt from the Ebola outbreak on how to best distribute PPE or check water quality or reinforce health structures, and they are taking those learnings and knowledge to Syrians in refugee camps. Here in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, where I am currently based, I am working with our Bangladeshi colleagues, our Rohingya colleagues, a Canadian epidemiologist, a Dutch nurse, a truly international team.

Rohingya refugees in the rain in a camp in Cox's Bazar. Credit: Fabeha Monir/ Age International

They have been working hard over the past four months to get our coronavirus treatment centre open.

They have spent that time working with the community to distribute cloth masks, learning and understanding how to talk to people in the community to explain what coronavirus might do, and keeping essential services such as vaccination still functioning.

They have been working to understand how the community wants to be taken care of when they are ill, how they want to live and, when we cannot provide any further care, how they want to die with dignity. Coronavirus has challenged us in positive ways too – it has forced us to come up with innovative solutions to the problems we face.

83 years old Ayesha sitting inside her shelter in the Rohingya Refugee camp. Credit: Fabeha Monir/ Age International

I think of my colleagues in East Africa who have developed a programme where we can distribute masks and look at new ways of assessing malnutrition in the same village for the same children.

This is something that technically we did not do before, and coronavirus has forced us to learn to do this and it will have a lasting impact on how we work beyond this time. We have seen the incredible efforts of the public sector in the UK, the NHS, Public Health England, the social care sector, teachers and we have seen communities across the UK come together to help each other.

Rohingya refugees in the rain in a camp in Cox's Bazar. Credit: Fabeha Monir/ Age International

And as we now look to other countries to help them as this crisis takes hold in their communities, I hope that those of us who feel able, will consider giving to organisations such as the Disasters Emergency Committee, whose 14 members are working hard around the world to help the most vulnerable face this deadly new threat. In this time of mourning those who have lost their lives, we also have an incredible moment of opportunity, a moment to remember who we are to each other and who we want to be. Among the DEC’s 14 members are ActionAid UK, Age International, the British Red Cross, Christian Aid, Islamic Relief, Oxfam GB and Save the Children UK. If you can donate, please visit, by phone on 0370 60 60 900, or text SUPPORT to 70150 to donate £10.